A young Brazilian boy named Quico walks through a portal to a colorful new world. Joined by his friends Monster and Lula, Quico is following a girl named Alejandra. He must complete puzzles that open up the paths in order to reach her.
Papo & Yo is very much like a cat & mouse game between Quico and Alejandra. It reminds me of Sonic 3, where Knuckles would always appear and just ruin things for Sonic & Tails. Alejandra’s also sort of a Sour-Patch Kid. Sour, then sweet. At one point, she takes one of the puzzle blocks away from Quico, and runs around with it. Luckily, Quico can play that game too, and activates a switch which locks Alejandra in a box. Of course, most of the time Alejandra disappears into the floor or a wall, and pops up somewhere else. She does become more helpful later on in the game, though.
I appreciate that Papo & Yo focuses on the story. The puzzle elements are challenging yet simple enough that I didn’t get stuck on figuring them out. They were mainly there to help Quico reach his goal.
Quico’s giant pink friend, Monster, helps Quico reach new areas. He feeds on coconuts that can be used to lure him to a spot (which opens up a new spot). Eating too many coconuts causes Monster to fall asleep, allowing Quico to jump on his belly and be catapulted in the direction he chooses. Monster likes coconuts, but he likes green treefrogs even more. If he eats a frog, he turns angry and charges Quico. Quico has to capture Monster by making him stand on certain highlighted spots, and then collecting pieces to the rotten fruit that will turn Monster back to normal.
Quico also has help from Lula, his toy robot that has the ability to fly. Lula allows Quico to hover for a small period of time. Quico can also direct Lulu to operate certain switches that are farther away and out of his reach. Lula acts as a mother figure for Quico; she cares for him and makes sure that he is always protected. During one part of the game, Lula sacrifices herself against a raging frog-infused Monster to protect Quico.
Alejandra tells Quico of a a temple where Lula can be revived, by luring Monster into traps. Each trap removes a piece of Monster’s anger and brings life to Lula.
The final step of the process is to visit the Shaman, who can fully cure Monster. Quico and Monster begin their journey to the summit, which sort of works like a ski-lift. Lula is the key to powering the way to the summit. She can’t protect Quico anymore. She has to stay behind to operate the lift. It’s a heartbreaking scene. The journey to the summit takes a few minutes and there are a few changes during this time. The biggest change of course is when Monster transforms into Quico’s father. The two are separated by what almost seems like prison cells during this lift to the summit. The two are separated. There’s no conversing or even an acknowledgment between the two. Complete and utter silence.
The two reach the peak and search for the Shaman. Up the stairs are four statues of Monster, with a giant spiral staircase standing in the middle. Quico runs up the stairs, which makes the stairs go underneath the ground in a corkscrew motion. Quico reaches the top of the stairs (which is now level with the ground), to find that not only is there no shaman, but there is no cure for monster either. As Quico rotates the four statues of Monster, the truth is revealed. The statue of Quico jumping turns into Quico playing with Lula. A statue of Monster eating frogs turns into Quico’s father consuming alcohol. A statue of Monster eating Alejandra turns into Quico fighting with his father. A statue of Monster chasing Quico turns into Quico’s father pulling his belt off to beat his son. These statues help to compare the differences between fantasy and reality. Quico’s father killed a man in a car accident, which further excelled his drinking. The more Quico’s father drank, the angrier he became.
Papo & Yo has quite a sad story, especially when it’s realized that Monster is not a friend, but a representation of Quico’s alcoholic and abusive father. The anger consumes Quico’s father, eventually representing Monster. Deep down, Papo & Yo is all about letting go. There was no cure for Monster. Quico had to let him go. He had to let those bad memories go so Quico would not have to live in fear any longer. The world was created by Quico as an escape from his repressed memories of his father. Sometimes it’s easier pretending to live in a fantasy world. Quico uses the world to escape from reality, just like many people (myself included) play video games, watch movies, or partake in other hobbies to help escape from everyday life.
Papo & Yo is a very special, albeit an emotional, video game. It’s almost hard to believe that this game was developer Minority’s very first game. It’s a masterpiece, to say the least. Papo & Yo is one of the greatest PlayStation 3 games I’ve ever played. I hope that more developers make games like these.